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MU awaiting new board members

Aug. 01, 2013 @ 11:00 PM

HUNTINGTON -- More than half of the 13 governor-appointed members of the Marshall University Board of Governors are serving on expired terms, including four who cannot be re-appointed.

But Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has not made any new appointments for the seats, three of which expired in 2012. And some of the members said they'd like to see action taken, including board president Dr. Joseph Touma, whose first term expired in 2012.

"It's a very important assignment, and that's why I would like to see fresh blood and new people with new ideas," Touma said. "I am hoping to have appointments soon."

Not only have there been no new appointments, but there also has been no explanation as to why. When asked, Amy Shuler Goodwin, the director of communications for Tomblin, responded by saying the governor hadn't made appointments as of Monday but would let the media know when he did. However, she also noted that "Tomblin has made over 70 BOG appointments since taking office" in 2010.

Terms on boards of governors are different than others, said Huntington attorney Mike Farrell, whose term was among the most recent to expire on June 30.

"You continue to be a governor as a holdover until such time the governor appoints a replacement," Farrell explained. "I am willing to stay as long as it takes to find a replacement. I think it's a privilege to serve on this board, and I value the opportunity to provide input."

Farrell said he'll continue to devote the necessary time that being on the board demands because it is a commitment that is made when accepting the governor's appointment. You can walk away if you choose to do that, but Farrell said he is pleased to continue to serve.

Not everyone can continue to meet those demands, which Touma described as having a second full-time job. He said he is proud to provide service to Marshall and the state, but he has life plans after his term expires in 2016.

However, he also acknowledged that last year's situation of having three members reach their term limits at the same time on June 30 was a unique one. That included attorney Letitia Neese Chafin, business consultant Verna Gibson and accountant John Hess, who is the only one of those three to consistently attend meetings still.

"I kept coming because I was still officially a board member since no one was appointed," Hess said. "The rest of the board and administration deserved to have participation and a full board to vet everything and make good decisions."

Hess, a Barboursville resident who works for Hess, Stewart & Campbell, also said he loves Marshall and is proud of what's been accomplished in the nine years he's been active on the board. But he also chimed in on the need for appointments.

"I think it would be best if the governor appointed new members," Hess said.

Chafin has attended in person or by phone for five of the 12 regular and special meetings since April 2012, but she was in the midst of a campaign last year for a seat on the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.

Gibson, who lives in Sarasota, Fla., has phoned in for five meetings in the past year, attending in April, June and December 2012 and was absent for five meetings. But Touma said she participates by phone in other executive meeting discussions and is still a valuable asset to the board.

On June 30, two other terms expired in addition to Farrell. Those belong to Ed Howard, a retired senior vice president and regional manager for J.C. Penney Co. who resides in Scottsdale, Ariz.; and Dale Lowther, an accountant with Cain & Associates in Parkersburg. Both are eligible for second terms.

Matt Turner, Marshall's chief of staff, said the commitment and expertise of all the board members is appreciated. Having served on the staff of former Gov. Joe Manchin, he said he knows that making appointments is not a menial task.

"There's a crazy number of appointments the governor has to make, and the sheer number, it's a big task that's not always easy," Turner said.

Farrell said he can understand Tomblin taking his time.

"What I'm hearing is there are multiple names pending before the governor," he said. "As I understand, it is happening here and at other institutions of higher education, and the governor wants to get it right."

The board also has three constituent members who represent the faculty, staff and student body.

The next Marshall board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 27.



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